I hope this blog post finds you happy and revived after the Christmas and New Year break. Wherever you were and with whomever you celebrated, I trust it was fun and yummy. We had a quiet and relaxed Christmas here, and New Year has been fun, catching up with friends.
In between, I’ve been enjoying the familiar sounds of summer – the two that top my list are: the drone of the cicadas and the cricket on the radio.
The cicadas are insane. They are deafening and persistent. Their song comes in such waves it consumes you. Standing in the bush listening to their swelling chorus, I am reminded of a well-orchestrated Mexican Wave at a sporting stadium. The roar gets louder and louder as it approaches you, and then reaches a climax before petering out again. As the crescendo builds I’m taken back to the Sydney Cricket Ground. I’m with my girlfriend Kate. It’s the late 80‘s, we’re in High School, and we’re on the grass hill at the SCG (oh yeah, those were the days!) and as the Mexican Wave came our way, everyone around us got ready to throw their plastic cups of beer and greasy chicken wings into the air in a messy and climactic moment of hysteria.
But I’m not at the SCG, I’m standing amongst tall eucalypts and the wave is being generated by cicadas. The Kid and I were there this afternoon, despite the searing temperature. We walked along the path up our back hill. The trees were alive with cicadas.
I’d downloaded an app called Decibel 10th, which someone had told me about. It measures the sound pressure level around you, in decibels. I was curious to see how loud the cicadas actually were. Your ear drums feel as though they are being assaulted.
And as it turns out, they are being assaulted. It doesn’t just feel like it. The app recorded a maximum sound level of 98 decibels, consistent with the noise level in the average subway apparently, or of your average blender. In either case, you need to TALK REALLY LOUDLY to the people around you in order to be heard.
Thank goodness it’s only the males that ‘sing’. If the females were at it too, I think we’d all have to move out.
While we were up there we did a bit more hunting for cicada shells. We even found a little blighter who didn’t quite make it out of his shell. The Kid wanted me to pick it up to check if it was alive. I wasn’t game.
Home we came to complete our cicada table decoration.
Meanwhile we’ve had a few other insect / reptilian / amphibian encounters, all part of the Australian summer country living experience. We arrived home the other day to see a lizard sauntering out of the shed. Jones wasted no time in chasing him down.
At first glance I thought it was a snake and my belly turned in on itself. I yelled at Jonesy to back off which he flat-out ignored. Then I saw the reptile’s head and realised it was a lizard. Phew, I breathed a serious sigh of relief. In his fright, the lizard tried to get through some chicken wire and promptly got himself stuck. He was a sitting duck for Jones. Amazingly The Kid managed to grab Jones and we secured him behind the house fence. I tried to cut the chicken wire to free our lizard friend but the wire cutters were too big and thick and were going to cause too much damage to the lizard. So I did what any confident, competent farmer girl would do, I called my Dad.
He had to tear himself away from the cricket.
Dad’s pointy wire cutters did the trick. The lizard hissed and lashed out at us, all three of us jumping back in fright at one stage. Once freed, he limped back into a dark corner of the shed. He’ll be fine, no blood, just a few surface cuts which hopefully will heal in no time. So long as Jones doesn’t find him.
The next day, Dad was here again, this time for dinner and just before leaving, I noticed that Jones was frantically sniffing under the sofa in the lounge room, tail wagging, trying desperately to squeeze his body into the most improbable space. I got down on the floor with a torch and spotted a frog. With Jones contained, I worked up a sweat getting Mr Frog out of his hiding place and Dad guided him out the back door and off the back verandah. Another rescue mission complete.
Unfortunately the huntsman spider was not so lucky. Having made his way down from the ceiling onto the kitchen floor (I’m actually happy having a huntsman in the house. They do wonders to keep the bug life at bay), Jones found him and started playing with him. Grabbling him gently in his mouth, he tossed him across the room. Dad, The Kid and I all jumped in various directions trying to avoid the flying spider. Poor fella needed to be put out of his misery. Thank goodness for Dad, again. He whacked him with a fly swat and removed the body, much to Jones’ disappointment and my relief.
We said good-night to Dad and headed off to bed only to find a large-enough-to-feel-uncomfortable-sized spider in The Kid’s room. Realising I needed to get rid of this one too, I went back for the trusty fly swat.
“Mum, I’ll be your back-up ‘cause this one looks rather fat (Rather? Yep, that’s what he said). Mum? Do you need back-up?”, came the comforting words from The Kid.
“OK, I’ll be your back-up engineer. I’m just here in my engineer’s shed.”
As I prepared to take a swipe at the black spider, I turned to see The Kid hiding behind an arm chair in the corner of the room. Some back-up.
And outside, in the night, the shrieks of a cicada caught in the beak of a bird perhaps, or in Jones’ mouth? I’m not sure which, but either way, I’d had enough of insects and creatures for one night.
Lying in bed early the next morning – for some reason I woke at 5am, it was hot and still. No breeze through the open window but as I lay there trying to get back to sleep it felt as though the high-pitched din of the cicadas was forcing its way through the window. The wave bulged through the flyscreen and then receded back out into the darkness before building again. They work hard those little critters.
The Sydney Test started today, so the cricket is back the radio, drowning out the cicadas, somewhat.
Thanks Bec H – explains the tinnitus! We had our own collection of about 100 shells, which in an moment of craft passion we garishly spray painted red (no other colour available in the cupboard) and rolled in glittter. Interesting. Then sent young Thomas out into the garden to place them here and there. Took up an excellent bit of time, but now I keep finding them in strange places. Not sure what’s worse – painted up with red and glitter or in a bag of 100 which keeps tipping out. And I never knew female ciccadas don’t make the noise, so thank you for that! As well as the evocative australian summer at its best entry.
Cicadas shells go glam, I like it.
Thanks Bec H, very apt post! Lovin’ the summer sounds. A few times though, we’ve
been wearing our Husqvana ear protectors to go walking around our land!
Can just picture it! You get very sweaty wearing them though, don’t you? I guess that’s the choice: sweaty or ringing ears.